My Father’s Garden by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar – 3/5

“I once read somewhere that the single minded persuit of one’s course over a lifetime can only be justified if one engages in two enterprises- building a garden, or raising a child. I now understand that my father’s garden is truly his child. And this child gives him the happiness and peace mind that nothing else could ever give him”

– Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

Specifics:

Book: My Father’s Garden

Author: Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

Published: 20th December, 2018

Genre: Fiction

LGBTQIA literature: Yes

Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing Pvt. Ltd

Pages: 192

My rating: 3/5

Blurb:

Spinning half A lie cover by father garden tells the story of a young doctor – the unnamed narrator – as he negotiates love and sexuality, his need for companionship and the burdens of memory and familial expectation.

The opening section, ‘Lover’, finds him studying medicine in Jamshedpur. At college, he discovers an all-consuming passion for Samir, a junior, who possesses his body, mind and heart. Yet, on their last morning together when he asks Samir to kiss him goodbye, his lover tells him
, ‘A kiss is only for someone special.’

In ‘friend’, the young doctor, after escaping heartbreak, finds relief in Pakur where he strikes up an unusual friendship with Bada Babu, the head clerk of the hospital where he is posted. In Bada Babu’s house, they indulge a shared love for drink, delicious food and convivial company. But when government bulldozers arrived to tear down the neighborhood, and Bada Babu’s house, the young doctor uncovers a sword tale of a party and exploitation – and a side to his friend that leaves him disillusioned.

And in ‘Father’, unable, ultimately, to flee the pain the young doctor takes refuge in his parents’ home in Ghatsila. As he heals, he reflects on his father – once a vital man who had phenomenal success at work and in Adivasi politics, then an equally precipitous downfall – and wonders if his obsessive gardening has anything to do with the choices his son has made.

Written with deep empathy and shearing emotional intensity, and in the clear, an affected rows that is the hallmark of Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s style, My Father’s Garden marks a major talent of Indian fiction writing at the top of his form.

Review:

Hold my horses as I go and make the foundation of my brand new garden!!!!

The Father’s Garden is a part of the story of a young doctor as he struggles with the acceptance of his sexual identity by his father while constantly having trouble with making people stay in his life.

It’s a very fast read and is divided into three parts as the blurb suggests. Each part gives us an insight into the current life of the narrator while also giving us a glimpse into his past.

I was initially confused as to what the gender of the narrator was but it gets clear as we keep reading. We also get a taste of Bollywood through one of the narrator’s lovers and of politics through the recollection of his father’s life.

The first part – ‘Lover’, revolves around the disastrous romances that the narrator has in medical school located in Jamshedpur. Disastrous because he’s all into who ever he courts but nobody is serious about him.

The second part – ‘Friend’, talks about his time working away from home in Pakur as a government doctor. We get a taste of how selfish some can get for their own gains at the expense of people’s lives while they can also be chivalrous and amicable to others. It shows how true, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, for better or for worse!’ is. The narrator learns it the hard way.

The final part – ‘Father’, is more about the past than it is about the present. We learn about the narrator’s grandfather and father. We learn how rebellious they were at a young age. This part however, felt a little disconnected from the others even though it was chronologically the continuation probably because of the excess political history that we get to learn to give us an understanding of the present.

The book does give you a feel of historical fiction and also sometimes, it feels like a biography. The unfair practice of the caste system, untouchability and corrupt politics is also spoken about at large.

I wouldn’t consider the book to be gripping but it was interesting. The writing style is to my liking and I enjoyed it.

The title was really apt and the ending was meaningful. I was however expecting to know more about what happens to the author and if he talks to his father about his sexuality.

I related immeasurably to the pressures of proving yourself worthy to your parents and giving their goals more importance than our own happiness. But the thing about that is, we don’t even give them a fair chance to understand that what they want for us is not the same as what we want for them. We just assume that they won’t be supportive.

I also learned during my research that the author was a doctor himself and faced backlash for this frank prose. The book was banned, even. It also appears to me that the narrator was highly based on the author himself given that he belongs to the community of Santhals and is a government doctor himself.

Since the book in itself is a short work of brilliant fiction, I won’t be getting into spoilers or characters.

I rate the book 3/5 stars.

What I liked about it:

1. Frank and descriptive
2. Fast and easy read
3. LGBTQIA plus literature
4. Gives us fairly good life lessons
5. Touches important evils like corruptive politics and caste system

What I did not fancy:

1. A little incomplete
2. A part of the story felt disconnected from the others

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